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Israeli PM's Wife Sentenced            06/16 09:26

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- A Jerusalem magistrate court on Sunday sentenced Sara 
Netanyahu, the wife of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to pay a 
fine of more than $15,000 for misusing state funds. The sentencing comes after 
she agreed to a plea bargain that ended the years-long saga of just one of the 
high-profile corruption cases involving the prime minister's family.

   The court ruling settled allegations that Sara Netanyahu had misused some 
$100,000 in state money on lavish meals. She was indicted on charges of fraud 
and breach of trust last year after the State Attorney's office accused her of 
running up large tabs at luxury restaurants while the official residence 
employed a full-time chef between the years 2010 and 2013.

   The settlement saw her admit to a more minor charge of "intentionally 
exploiting the mistake of someone else," specifically by misleading officials 
who didn't realize she already benefited from chefs on the government payroll.

   Under the terms of the bargain, Sara Netanyahu agreed to pay $2,800 in fines 
and hand the remaining $12,500 back to the state. The settlement also reduced 
the overspending charge to $50,000.

   But the prime minister himself remains the main focus of the family's legal 
troubles. He is facing an indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of 
trust, pending a hearing scheduled for early October. He has pushed for a 
postponement and can still request an extension from the Supreme Court.

   Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of accepting lavish gifts from billionaire 
friends and promising to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper 
in exchange for favorable coverage. He vehemently denies wrongdoing, portraying 
himself as a victim of media-orchestrated persecution against him and his 
family in an attempt to oust him from power.

   The prime minister and his wife have a reputation for leading indulgent 
lives at public expense, out of touch with most Israelis. The 60-year-old Sara 
Netanyahu in particular has been accused of excessive spending, using public 
money for her private, extravagant tastes and for abusive behavior toward her 
personal staff. These allegations earned her an image as the Israeli Imelda 
Marcos, the former Philippine first lady infamous for her collection of 
designer shoes.

   In 2016, a court ruled Sara Netanyahu mistreated a housecleaner and awarded 
the man $42,000 in damages. Other employees have accused her of abuse, charges 
the Netanyahus reject. Another former housekeeper is currently suing Sara 
Netanyahu for $63,000 in damages over mistreatment and harassment.

   However, Sara Netanyahu's lawyer, Yossi Cohen, portrayed his client as a 
victim, saying she had "been put through hell" the past four years with a 
public shaming campaign that was due only to her public standing.

   "Sara Netanyahu is today paying a heavy and painful personal cost to put an 
end to this witch hunt, and I hope that indeed this is the end of the story," 
he said after the hearing.

   Benjamin Netanyahu has stood by her, calling her a "true hero" and bemoaning 
how she had become a "punching bag" for their opponents. 


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